etmnlong.gif (2291 bytes) spacer HUMAN RIGHTS DETERIORATE IN EAST TIMOR

Semi-Annual Report of Human Rights Violations in East Timor, January to July, 1997

Issued by the East Timor Human Rights Centre, Melbourne, Australia, on August 30, 1997 (Ref: SR2/97), this is the introduction. The full 34-page report is available from ETAN for $5 plus postage.

The first half of 1997 has been a year of considerable progress for East Timor in the international arena. In April, a majority of members of the UN Commission on Human Rights voted in support of a strong resolution on East Timor, criticising the Indonesian government for its lack of progress on human rights in East Timor and calling for concrete steps to be taken to address the continuing violations. However, the support and concern at the international level has not resulted in any improvement in the long- standing problem of human rights violations in the territory. In fact, the first half of 1997 has seen a marked deterioration in the human rights situation in East Timor. In late 1996, following the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to two East Timorese, Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo and José Ramos- Horta, violations against East Timorese civilians increased sharply and continued to rise in early 1997. More recently, following the Indonesian election on 29 May, there has been a further escalation of violations. The international community has responded by showing renewed support and concern for the East Timorese people.

1997 has been characterized by grinding guerrilla warfare and a continuation of the strong movement of urban resistance and East Timorese nationalism which is directed against what the East Timorese perceive as Indonesian colonialism. During the election period, there was a notable increase in the activities of the armed East Timorese guerrillas (Falintil) who launched a number of bold attacks on Indonesian military and police targets. There were repercussions for the civilian population when the Indonesian military responded by launching an intensive military operation throughout East Timor. According to ETHRC sources, the operation is called "Operasi Gerakan Tuntas" (Operation Extermination) and is targeted at East Timorese people who are allegedly involved in the Clandestine Front or the armed East Timorese Resistance. The crackdown has so far resulted in hundreds of arbitrary arrests, and at least forty people being killed.

On 25 June, the Indonesian military captured Commander David Alex, second in command of the armed East Timorese Resistance (Falintil), accusing him of being the mastermind behind Falintil attacks in the Baucau district. Indonesian authorities announced that Alex had died of injuries sustained in an armed conflict between the guerrillas and the military at the time of his arrest. However, the ETHRC has not been able to confirm conclusively whether Alex was in fact killed as reported by the Indonesian authorities, as the circumstances surrounding his alleged death and prompt burial at a Dili cemetery are still unclear.

video available

video - Bitter ParadiseThis report provides details of human rights violations in East Timor between January and July 1997, concluding that this period has seen a marked increase in violations, particularly extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests and detention, and systematic torture and ill- treatment of prisoners. It is believed at least 707 East Timorese people were arrested and 49 killed.(1) The violations highlight the need for Indonesia to immediately implement the recommendations made by the Commission on Human Rights in its 1997 resolution, and the urgent need for a permanent UN presence in East Timor. In addition, human rights organizations, including the East Timor Human Rights Centre should be given access to East Timor, as should foreign journalists whose access to East Timor was discontinued following the post- election violence.

Note (1): These figures are more than double the arrests and extra-judicial executions reported by the ETHRC in the whole of 1996.

Back to News